Spreading sunshine

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Two-year-old Brielle Perry reacts as her mother, Stephanie Perry, makes the sign for water at their home in Denton on Wednesday. Brielle was diagnosed with leukemia in April.
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Volunteer group to make over rooms for child with leukemia, her sister

A new organization with hopes to make over rooms for sick and special-needs children is looking to bring some sunshine to the lives of a 2-year-old Denton girl and her family this weekend.

Brielle Perry is a friendly child, a busybody who likes roaming around her home, often following behind her mother, Stephanie Perry, while holding her baby doll.

On a visit to her house Wednesday, Brielle could often be found waving and saying “hi” to people doing work at the house. Behind a bright smile is a girl who has traveled a journey unlike those of most other children.

She was born in September 2011, with Down syndrome and two holes in her heart. In April, Brielle was diagnosed with leukemia and underwent six rounds of chemotherapy, which she recently completed. Last year, she spent Christmas in a hospital with a respiratory virus.

Brielle’s story captured the heart of Erica Jones, a military wife.

“It just breaks my heart. A child that has to fight so hard to see her second birthday just doesn’t seem fair,” Jones said. “Childhood is such a magical time, and just to spend Christmas in a hospital, it broke my heart. It just seemed like an unbearable load for a child to carry.”

She first learned about Brielle through a fundraising Web page a family member set up for the girl. The site linked to a Facebook page with videos of Brielle’s journey, Jones said, and it was through the social networking page that she reached out to the Perry family and offered to do something for them.

Jones said it became her goal to bring some sunshine to the lives of Brielle and her family and give them something to look forward to.

This weekend, Jones along with several volunteers, will make over Brielle’s room and the room of her 5-year-old sister Reese. The rooms will be revealed to the girls and their parents Sunday afternoon.

“They just need a little bit of light in their lives right now,” Jones said.

Last month with her husband, Joshua, Jones founded Sunshine Spaces (Room for Hope), a nonprofit organization in the process of applying for its 501(c)3 status, which will make over rooms for children with long-term and terminal illnesses and renovate rooms for children with special needs.

She runs the organization with her husband, a U.S. Marine stationed in Fort Worth who serves as the group’s project manager, and his ex-wife, Renee Jacobs, who lives in Kentucky and serves as the visionary officer for Sunshine Spaces.

As a blended family, Erica Jones said the three wanted to teach their children how to give back and “to put more in the world than they take from it.”

Brielle is the beneficiary of the first Sunshine Spaces room makeover, and Erica Jones said she hopes to do three to four makeovers annually in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

To meet a family like the Perrys, Joshua Jones said, makes this an honor to help. He said he’s excited to see how the rooms turn out and the reactions of the Perry family.

Stephanie Perry said she couldn’t believe that someone who doesn’t know them would want to do a room makeover for her two daughters.

“I think it’s so great what the organization is doing,” she said. “It’s something so special that we would never have the vision to do, and something that’s going to be lasting.

“To bring some joy to both of the girls is great.”

Volunteers with Sunshine Spaces and local and out-of-town businesses will spend Saturday and a portion of Sunday making over Brielle and Reese’s rooms.

Erica Jones said volunteers will create a room for Brielle where “she can be a child again.” Jones said Brielle’s room is inspired by English children’s author Enid Blyton’s The Faraway Tree series where children escape from the world to the top of a tree.

The room will include owl patterns, play areas and a reading area. The room will also have a custom-made artificial enchanted wishing tree equipped with a swing that’s being built by a Houston company.

Volunteers are putting together an underwater-themed room for Reese, which will include a reading corner and a mermaid and ocean mural.

Erica Jones said they wanted to do something for Reese who has had to go without her parents at home on days when they were at the hospital with her younger sister.

“I feel like in some way she’s taken the brunt of this,” Erica Jones said.

Perry said they’ve endured a tough year that has brought them closer to family and what’s important.

The family moved into their Denton home just two months prior to Brielle being diagnosed with leukemia and has not had much time to remodel. Perry said she’s hopeful the room makeover for her two girls will make the house “really feel like home.”

Perry said she looks forward to seeing the look on her daughters’ faces Sunday when their rooms are revealed and to see what ideas the Sunshine Spaces team comes up with.

“It’s just such a special gift,” Perry said. “It’s going to make this Christmas really special.”

BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876 and via Twitter at @BritneyTabor.

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